The smartphone powerhouse is currently advertising for a MM/Wave IC Design Engineer and a MM/Wave IC Layout Designer. Both these candidates would have a role in developing and delivering millimeter wave (mmWave) wireless chips that are at the heart of multi-gigabit wireless technologies such as 5G and high-speed home wireless technology, like 60GHz WiGig. (See The Many Faces of 5G and 60GHz: A Frequency to Watch.)
High-speed mobile 5G services are expected to launch initially in the US around 2020, using 28GHz near-millimeter wave technology. [Ed note: Technically, the millimeter wave frequencies are classified as between 30GHz and 300GHz in the US.] (See Ready, Set, Go! FCC Votes for First 5G Spectrum.)
So why would Apple be concerned about a technology that is at least three years away and unlikely to be ubiquitous in the US for a long time? For one thing, 5G will make video transfers over the air much faster, allowing an HD movie to be downloaded in seconds, rather than streaming and stuttering over a 4G connection.
It will also open up new applications such as wireless virtual and augmented reality apps. The success of Pokemon Go has already shown there is a consumer hunger for such games -- and probably other applications -- in a mobile format. That's something Apple would be foolish to ignore. (See Pokémon Go Is Just the Beginning: Wait Until VR's on 5G!.)
On the practical side, it takes a long to time to design and verify this niche -- until now -- technology, especially as the 28GHz radios and antennas have not been used much in small mobile or wireless devices before. In its design engineer ad, Apple says it is planning to get such devices into the hands of "hundreds of millions of customers." (see Islands in the Stream: Don't Expect Full mmWave 5G Coverage in US, Says Nokia.)
(On a side note, millimeter wave engineers used to be restricted to satellite and backhaul radio jobs. Now it seems that everyone and their dog is looking for some high-band talent.)
Oh, by the way, I ran the job ads past Heavy Reading senior analyst Gabriel Brown, who agreed that they could relate to 5G but might also apply to 60GHz WiGig home wireless technology.
In this instance, I think the large device volumes referenced suggest a consumer wireless gadget rather than a super-fast home hotspot. And Apple is also currently advertising for wireless interns to research multiple aspects of 5G.
What do you think? Add your comments to the message boards below.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading